It’s market day in India. Would you like to tag along as a young girl picks out a special gift for her mother?
Just to be clear, this is no ordinary outdoor market — at least not as it’s presented in this gorgeous new picture book by Meera Sriram and Mariona Cabassa.
The market in A Gift for Amma (Barefoot Books, 2020) is a bustling bazaar of blossoms, spices, powders, sweets, fabrics, and feathers — an eye-popping rainbow of luscious colors that rouse the senses.
Once we step into the world of this artfully crafted story, we find ourselves awash in fiery vermilion, cool terracotta and soothing indigo with an eager shopper as our guide.
She faces quite a conundrum though, since there are many wonderful things to choose from, and we can feel her energy and enthusiasm as she describes each item in terms of color:
SAFFRON orange strands in tiny scoops.
Would Amma like to season rice?
Orange marigolds swing over doors —
Swish, swish! Should I make her a garland?
With just two lines per page, Sriram’s spare, lyrical text powers an engaging narrative brimming with sensory details that make every scene come alive.
There’s the fragrance of white jasmine, fresh mint and coriander, the sound of a passing rickshaw’s bell, a water buffalo’s moo, and the “Clink, clink!” of blue bangles as they sing and chime.
Sriram certainly uses onomatopoeia to good effect, making this an extra fun read aloud. What child would not love the swish, shoo, yum, sniff, jingle and achoo’s in the story — with all the actions they imply?
We can practically taste those “pink sweets soaked in ghee,” the roasted sweetcorn and kebabs, and what about some “brown tea with milk and sugar”? Mmmmm, cardamom!
Mariona Cabassa’s vibrant pencil, pastel and water-based paint illustrations are truly a feast for the eyes, and are sure to elicit oohs and ahhs throughout. She’s populated the narrow streets of the busy market with interesting people of all ages, among them, tote-carrying customers happily interacting with sellers, strolling past stalls and display tables. Everyone seems to be on the move, whether by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, or automobile.
Readers will be happy to learn what gift the girl finally purchases with her pocket money. Confronted with so many beautiful colors/items, she joyfully solves her dilemma with just the right treasure.
A Gift for Amma is based on the outdoor markets the author frequented as a child growing up in southern India. Back matter includes market photographs from her 2019 summer trip, definitions of all the items for sale in the story, as well as short descriptions of other notable outdoor markets around the world.
I think kids will enjoy learning “new” names for familiar colors, exploring different shades and textures for each, and trying to guess what the girl will ultimately buy as they’re handily steeped in a fascinating setting.
Don’t miss this flavorful color concept and storybook in one, nimbly told and beautifully illustrated. Each page turn seems to top the next, enchanting readers as they explore these hues in a stimulating cultural context.
As for me, I’m quite taken with “TUMERIC yellow like sunshine dust,” “LOTUS pink shimmering fresh,” and “PEACOCK green dancing in the breeze.”
May I please have another cup of brown tea with my pink sweet? 🙂
A GIFT FOR AMMA: Market Day in India
written by Meera Sriram
illustrated by Mariona Cabassa
published by Barefoot Books, August 2020
*Available in hardcover, paperback, and Spanish editions
**Starred Reviews** from School Library Journal and Foreword Reviews
♥️ Download coloring sheets here.
♥️ Enjoy the book trailer:
*Interior spreads from A Gift for Amma, text copyright © 2020 Meera Sriram, illustrations © 2020 Mariona Cabassa, published by Barefoot Books. All rights reserved.
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